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Jon Moxley on Terry Funk: ‘He was a f------ legend’

Jon Moxley recollects the night where he and Terry Funk became kindred spirits

It is extraordinarily difficult to definitively state that one wrestler is the greatest of all-time.

A multitude of different elements define success in pro wrestling. Factors primarily include drawing the most money and wrestling the most compelling matches, but longevity can also play a factor, as well as the significance of title reigns. Unlike other pro sports, wrestling is a far more subjective field.

Nevertheless, none of that was going to prevent Jon Moxley from sharing who he believes ranks at the top of that list of pro wrestling legends.

“If Terry Funk’s not the greatest of all time, then who the f--- is?” said Moxley. “Terry Funk wasn’t playing a pro wrestler. He was the real thing.”

Funk passed away last week at the age of 79. The greats have a knack for always leaving the crowd wanting more, and that was unquestionably the case with him. Even after nearly eight decades of life, wrestling still hungers for more time with Funk.

Though Funk had moments of glory in WWE, particularly with a Saturday Night’s Main Event bout from 1986 against Hulk Hogan, and some flashes of brilliance a decade later as Chainsaw Charlie, those runs did not define him. His versatility was on best display away from Vince McMahon’s global conglomerate, where he traveled around the world and starred on both sides of the Pacific in his own distinguished manner.

Funk’s rivals ranged from Ric Flair to Dusty Rhodes to Mick Foley to Sabu to Tommy Dreamer to Harley Race to Jerry “The King” Lawler to Stan Hansen to Bruiser Brody–and, remarkably, that is only a sampling of his best opponents. Other wrestlers who were also famed opponents include Ricky Steamboat, Abdullah The Butcher, and Shane Douglas. Funk also had an exceptional retirement match against Bret Hart–one with no build, though they were such world-class executioners of the craft that that made no difference.

“You could put him anywhere in the world against any opponent,” said Moxley. “He’d cut an intense promo dripping with authenticity and then go work a killer match.”

Funk’s work as a forefather of independent wrestling clearly made an impression on Moxley. After leaving WWE, Moxley reached a whole new level of joy in the ring. He has starred primarily for AEW and New Japan Pro-Wrestling, while also using his platform to flourish in GCW, Bloodsport, Defy, Northeast Wrestling, and PWG.

“We can learn a lot from Terry Funk,” said Moxley. “He was so giving. He chose to give back in ECW. And he wasn’t the type of guy who’d say the kids today couldn’t work. He was doing moonsaults in his 50s. If he were wrestling today, I fully believe he’d be in AEW and doing shows for Revolver or Bloodsport and doing Canadian Destroyers.”

Moxley also shared a moment with Funk in WWE. Albeit brief, it had a long-lasting effect.

It took place on Raw in March of 2016 during Moxley’s build to a match at WrestleMania 32 against Brock Lesnar. The genesis of the story was that Moxley, who was known in WWE as Dean Ambrose, could benefit from a pep talk ahead of his date with Lesnar, so Funk made a visit when Raw was in Philadelphia, the home of the revolution.

“We’d met a few times before that, but all those were quick,” said Moxley. “This was the only time I worked with him.”

Stifled by the barriers surrounding the creative process in WWE, Moxley eventually left in 2019, finding a new home in AEW. Along the way, he learned an evergreen lesson from the master.

“Terry Funk was a genius, a f------ genius,” said Moxley. “I already knew that, but I saw it firsthand that night.”

The Raw segment was filmed off-site. WWE’s writing team wrote a script with dialogue for Moxley and Funk, and the scene was designed to end with Funk gifting a chainsaw to Moxley, who then would use it to saw a table in half.

“It’s insulting that we asked Terry Funk to memorize lines,” said Moxley. “It’s Terry Funk. But he found a way to do it his way.”

As soon as Moxley arrived to shoot the scene, he was greeted by members of WWE’s writing team. They expressed genuine concern about Funk and whether the segment could even be filmed.

“Back then, I was getting two-page f------ scripts all the time,” Moxley explained. “They had this two-page script for us, and it was trash. It’s Terry f------ Funk. You don’t need to give him a script. When I walked in, a bunch of writers came up to me, and they were in a panic. It was all about Terry. ‘He can’t remember his lines,’ they kept telling me. They made it sound like he was having trouble remembering anything and that his confidence was in the toilet.

“So the writers tried to make Terry feel better, and they finally started writing new drafts. The final one, Terry only had one line.”

Funk agreed to the changes. The industry icon, who also dabbled in films–famously appearing in Roadhouse and, Paradise Alley, and Over The Top, as well as choreographed a street fight in Rocky V–then capitalized on his gift of making the most of his time on-screen.

“The new plan was that I talked, then Terry would have his line, then I’d take it home,” said Moxley. “So I say my first piece. Then Terry is up, and he starts going off. He cut this f------ awesome, insane, f------ classic Terry Funk spiel. ‘This kid, he’s the best in the country!’ I loved that he said country, which was such an old school line. He was incredible. It took a second to see this wasn’t a sad old man with no confidence, it was Terry Funk.”

When the segment aired on Raw, it was the original take that made it to the screen. That was because there were no other takes, as Moxley refused to film the scene again.

“What we filmed wasn’t from the script, so the writer in charge wanted to do it again,” said Moxley. “I was like, ‘F--- this. We just got a Terry Funk classic. We’re not doing it again. If Vince is upset about it, I’ll talk to him myself.’ So the writers agreed, and I was pumped. We got a classic piece of Terry Funk in the flesh.

“Afterward, I spoke with Terry. ‘They think I’m just some crazy old man,’ he told me. He was smiling about it when he said, ‘I’m not going to remember all that sh-- they wanted me to say. Wasn’t it better this way?’”

One of Terry Funk’s final victories against Vince McMahon took place in an off-site segment for Raw. Moxley was astonished by Funk’s deftness and wit, which evolved over time like a fine wine.

“I’m thinking to myself, Terry, you’re a f------ genius,” said Moxley. “He worked all the writers into a panic over not being able to read from a script, so they took away his lines. Then, when the camera went on, he went balls out. He worked the sh-- out of all those writers. It was f------ beautiful.

“That was the one night when our universe crossed, and I’ll always remember it. For one night, it felt like we were kindred spirits.”

Funk’s maverick spirit helped define his brilliance. That essence will endure with people like Moxley, who used Funk’s branding iron this past Sunday at AEW’s All In pay-per-view during the Stadium Stampede match, carrying a similar ethos.

And for as long as Moxley steps into a ring or shares stories in the locker room, he will be emphasizing the virtues of Terry Funk.

“There are so many different criteria that it’s impossible to pick the greatest ever,” said Moxley. “Look at Bret Hart and Ric Flair. They worked two completely different styles, and they were two completely different artists. It was like one guy played the trumpet and the other guy played a pair of bongos. They made different music. Terry Funk always gets passed over in that discussion. He was often the heel coming into a territory, putting over the babyface, and leaving to do something else.

“But look at the body of work. It’s pretty clear. You can’t tell me Terry Funk isn’t the f------ greatest of them all.”